Monday, 28 May 2007

Bagged another National Trust house at the weekend, Mottisfont Abbey, near Romsey. It has the most amazing rose garden, which is smelling and looking at its peak these next couple of weeks. If you go, tell them I sent you and they may give me a free picnic bag. Although judging by D's review, they are less than worthless, and only make you stand out at Glastonbury or similar festivals, as the oddball person with the NT picnic bag.

Another feature of the place is a 'Trompe l'oeil' room, painted by Rex Whistler in the 1930s. After much discussion of the pronunciation, we discovered the incredible detailing and fabulous effect of said decorating technique. I was so taken by it, I am just now taking a break from decorating our bedroom in a 'trompe l'oeil' style. I think it is french for 'tricks the eye', so I am hoping that the beige walls will trick your eyes well. I was really chuffed with B and Q, you know those rare trips when they have what you want AND it is on half price offer? Yipee!

H and one of her friends were 'helping' me decorate earlier. It went ok, they have a shorter attention span than my patience, which is the best way round for everyone. The expression 'patience of a saint' is very real to me today, clearly I am far from being canonised by the church of Rome as I can't wait for radishes to grow and would make tea with lukewarm water if I thought it would work.

I ate some of my home grown lettuce yesterday, which tasted good. It has been raining enough to start measuring up for an ark around here, so I am hoping the potatoes will be ready to dig up tomorrow. Will try to take a photo with my 'macro' feature to show off their size. On my recent trip to Mottisfont I showed off my macro abilities to the people we were with, and they all found their own macro settings and took flower pictures too. Hey! I AM AN ACCOMPLISHED PHOTOGRAPHER WHO TEACHES OTHER PEOPLE THINGS. And all from 5 weeks at evening classes.

Yesterday I did Pilates at Chamberlayne as usual, and on Friday I made it to yoga at Bitterne for the first time in a while. Ached on Saturday. H misheard me saying I was going to yoga and thought I was going to 'ogre'. Which I do from time to time, so I can see where she was coming from, as she ran to take cover under the pillow.

We have been having a post housegroup financial clean up, as we are talking about 'where is your treasure' at church at the moment, and how much we rely on material possessions rather than on God. Rob has been battering away at the spreadsheet, and I have found an energy supplier who is hopefully green without being incredibly more expensive than everyone else. We shall see. Don't have the capital to invest in solar panels, but would love to. Maybe we should save up...

Saturday, 26 May 2007

The cooperative celery. Is what it said on the pack of celery I bought today from the coop. I had visions of uncooperative celery - does it not bend, or not chop, or is it impossible to digest?

Thursday, 24 May 2007

We have a Dora the Explorer and an Action Man in our bath. They have very different physiques, but both do pretty much the same job. Exploring, solving problems, having adventures. I read that Action Man has been 'beefed up' over the last 3 decades, and 1970s AM looks a bit weak compared to today's muscle bound hero.

Dora has not been around long enough to be changed, but does seem to be smiley and content with her dimensions. It is what she does that matters, not what she looks like.

On Tuesday, H came home from school telling me that one of the GGG girls had called her a rude word and the teaching assistant had taken H to her class to get the girl to apologise. I was worried to ask what the word was. But I did. It was 'fat'. I wanted to kill the girl in question for calling my beautiful girl fat, it really is a rude word in my world too. I reel still from the damage done when someone I didn't know (a helper on a Brownie camp, I was 7) said to another leader over my head that it was appropriate that I was in the Heffalump six, as I was a bit of a Heffalump. So, this is a raw issue for me, who was one of those girls with 'puppy fat'. I HATE THAT TERM!

My immediate reaction to H should have been to ask her what she thought of that - hey - haven't read all those Steve Biddulph books for nothing - but I didn't. I blurted out 'But you are beautiful!' To which she replied 'yeah, I know'. Hope she does. I had another conversation a few weeks ago about whether you could over encourage your children and build too much their self esteem - the friend of a friend had said that she would rather dampen down too much self esteem than work on repairing broken or non existent. Makes a lot of sense to me.

Of course in raising this thorny issue I have put myself out there to have arrows thrown - from the last paragraph, my world view would seem to suggest you cannot be fat AND beautiful at the same time. Whoa. As Staci would say. Not sure about any of this, just chucking it out as my reaction to a very normal thing that happened, maybe you would like to comment and help me refine my thinking. Can't help but think that it is my esteem that was more crushed by the comment to H than hers, from this viewpoint right now. And wondering what God wants to say to me through this episode.

God have mercy on my children. They need you so much!

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Netto. Ok, so its not politically correct or cool, but we went shopping there on Saturday, alright? The reason for telling you is NOT so you feel sorry for my children and pop a fiver in the post, but because in the car park, or more correctly the loading bay, there was a peacock. Not the shop, the real, live bird, wandering around Netto's car park. How amazing is that?

Although now I read my phrasing on that you are probably disappointed to hear that it was a bird and not a branch of Peacocks Clothing Inc. I would have been hallucinating to see that, as it was I can assure you I had only been on redbush tea (Rooibus as Dunc insists, in his very accurate Southa African vernacular).

Pink champagne was the tipple of choice brought over by the lovely Hice the other night, to get it out of their fridge mainly, but with the excuse of celebrating the 47 000 baby born that day to people we know. Pink champagne should be more widely available, maybe on drips in A and E would be a good place to start.

Today I went to Total NRG with Lou and Ang. It was lots of fun, with some interesting aerobic moves that I think the instructor got from the Karma Sutra. Bitterne Leisure Centre, only the best, for top aerobic classes. Yesterday we went to Bitterne Library, a rare treat for H. I got a bit carried away with teaching my children French and got out 3 books in French, including 'Bear' by Mick Inkpen, in French and English. Will challenge my pronunciation but pleased to say as I know the story off by heart I will pass on the comprehension challenge.

Everyone I know is getting me sucked into the Face book thing. Every time I check my email someone else has sent me one saying 'Would you like to be X's friend?' It is like a blog, only only your friends can read it, and I quite like the risk of knowing that HRH could be reading all about her eating habits, and that I may be discovered and be the next Billy Connoly or something. Is he dead yet?

At A's nursery they are learning about giants, and reading 'The Smartest Giant in Town' which is one of our favourites already. Today when I dropped her off there was a giant pair of shoes on the table, really big. She said at home time that no giant had been in today because there were no holes in the ceiling. Which would lead logically to the conclusion that giants have been visiting H's school which was shut on Friday because there were holes in the ceiling.

I am venturing into the brave new world of selling on ebay. I don't know if I can face the rejection of finding out that no one wanted to buy my fascinator, but someone did buy the little piece of metal off a bike that R put on there. If you did a profile on R based on the things he sold on ebay you would come up with an interestingly bizarre individual who rides a mountain bike wearing a fascinator.

Friday, 18 May 2007

Hey, I just checked out Frog in the Field website, where you can buy party bags. What a great company, and why didn't I think of it first? Caroline, thank you for your comments and I will get H a job working for them stuffing bags or something as soon as she is old enough to work for peanuts. x
Public transport is the featured subject tonight. I cycled to work (school) today and locked my bike in the bike shelter as usual, and forgot that I would be leaving at midday, when the caretaker (who locks the bike shelter) is off duty... so, I used my considerable taste for adventure and walked to Sainsburys at Hedge End, and found out that there is a free bus to Thornhill 3 days a week, which I missed by about 1 minute, despite a lovely Sainsburys employee called Brenda packing my bags to speed me up. So, I sat on the seat and chatted to the couple next to me. They were staying with their daughter in Hedge End, and were attempting to get a bus to Hilliers Garden Centre for a potter and a 'spot of lunch'. It is not far to get there from where we were, but by bus I fancied their chances as slim of getting there and back in the same day. My bus came before theirs, I got the number 6 (which I had never seen before) to the top of the road. A had suggested we spend the afternoon at The Quays, so off we trotted to the bus stop to get an 18/19 into town. Meanwhile, the other branch of the Bowens were using the train and cycle to get to and from Fareham. H had an unexpected day off school, as the roof has fallen in. So, she accompanied R to work, and was pleased with all the attention she received from 15 year old girls, delighted no doubt to have a reason to not work. She made flapjack, a door sign and sat in silence for an hour while R invigilated a test.

No resorting to car use in this family! We should by now have saved enough money to buy a new car, or train, or country. Am thinking about solar panels on the roof, but will wait till the Marsdens are satisfied with their installation before I go ahead.

I have been researching holiday possibilities tonight. I want to stay in a train carriage, a Romany caravan and a lighthouse. Would love to combine all of those in one stay, if anyone has any ideas. Also a narrowboat holiday when the girls are a bit older. A can swim about 5 metres now, but would not want to test her stamina in a lock.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

It said on the back of the van.

Pitter is a local self drive van hire company, which makes sense.

But what if it was actually a company called Pitter's, which lent you 'elf drive' vans. How cool would it be to have an elf drive you around Southampton?

Lots has been going on for me this last couple of weeks, including some collosal public transport journeys. Girls and I travelled by bargain train to Claygate for the bank holiday weekend, via Waterloo, which all went really well. H needed the toilet in between Basingstoke and Woking, then A wanted a go, so training them well for spending the whole journey in there to avoid the ticket inspector.

We travelled by train to Clandon, to meet up with cousin A and sister in law A to check out a National Trust park. ( We don't have a B team, they all begin with A.) I marched the mile up the road to the park while A took mum and girls in the car. It was shut. We went to another nearby NT place, and went back to Clandon Park on the Sunday, with grandparents, to experience the 'Clandon Comes Alive!' event. As some of you know, I am obsessively visiting National Trust places this year as we have a season ticket, so I am treating them like Munroes to bag. Clandon was the home for a frighteningly large group of reenactors dressed up in posh clothes from some previous century, playing backgammon and the harpsichord and talking about the weather. Just normal Surrey life really. There was a young couple with a baby, dressed up in a long white robe and with a wooden rattle. I suggested it as a wholesome hobby for our family, but R's rather sour look showed me his heart would not be in dressing up as a posh person and wandering around a National Trust residence. In fact, he really hates wandering around stately homes and sees it as the most scarring experience of his childhood, so why he lets me put the girls through it I do not know. H likes asking questions and conjecturing about the past, so she humours me. We spent a long time on the sofa one day this week discussing WW2, reasons for, events of, etc, which stretched my history further than it goes. I described Hitler as 'a bad king who wanted to be king of all the other countries too and did not listen when people told him they didn't want him to be their king.' Hope that passes for all you history bods out there.

H still fascinated by the male members of the Royal family. Discussed whether Prince Harry should go to Iraq with H today (think he is already there, so horses and stable doors spring to mind). Also, why does the Queen not order people's heads be chopped off anymore? And does Prince Phillip do that now? We are still awaiting a reply from the Queen to H's proposals of marriage to any Prince she has spare. Hope its not Philip tho.

Anyway, what I wanted to tell you was that IF you go to a NT place and arrive by public transport, (which I would have done, if it were open on the Friday) you get a £1 voucher to spend in the coffee shop, as long as you spend £2.50.

Now, if I go to about 70 NT places by public transport I will have got back my membership fee. Have not achieved one yet.

We also went to a residence in Esher which is not a NT mansion, but should have a blue plaque hanging on the eaves to show it is the home of the Marsden family. We were guests at a 30th birthday party and were treated to a fabulously raisiny lunch, with salad options to die for and home made meringues that Nigella would be proud of. In fact, forget the blue plaque and order a few Michelin stars or rosettes or whatever.

Party food featured heavily in our bank holiday weekend, as cousin A was one year old and we went to his party too. Great cake in the shape of a chicken and a number 1. Lots of family and friends to catch up with and usual fab hosting by my lovely bro and his lovely wife, A and A. They deserve a Michelin star for the Pimms welcome.

Maybe I should set up my own star rating system, with Pimms availability as a certain star, home made coleslaw and meringues worth one each, Pot pourri in the bathroom another star...

Yesterday I bought a 'day rider' which is always a mistake, as it makes you blase (sp?)about the buses you catch. Waited 10 minutes on one outside my house to get going, got into town via Cairo. Then had a easy hop back over the bridge to Woolston, my next stop. All fine. THEN, a big mistake. I got on a bus which would get to Bursledon road, which is at the other end of Thornhill but ok, as I was going to the Beauty box shop up there. But I didn't realise it went there via Ipswich. Got off when it got faintly near where I wanted to go, as I didn't fancy my chances of it dipping back into Sholing and being in there another century. The moral of the story is: Don't buy a Day rider. If you do, decide you don't need to get anywhere by any time, or go on the number of the bus you know goes where you are going. Simple.

We watched Casino Royale, the best Bond film for ages, possibly ever, in my humble opinion. No stupid techno gadget motorbike moron chases, or ridiculous cars which do everything and are the star. It was clever and had lots of twists, and kindly the baddies were quite easy to spot as they had eye patches or similar. I am not a whizz at poker, or indeed the polka, but just about followed the gambling bits of it. It is a shame they didn't consider Jo Brand as the next Bond. Or do I mean Russell?

Today was very wet (ooh, great for the garden!) and we were scheduled to be picnicking with the Taylor family. We went to their home instead, to sample yet another artistic cake, as Ellie is just 3. It was one of those ones where you stick a Barbie up to her waist in cake and make it look like her skirt. Great! H wants one for her birthday, which is in two months. The invites are already done and she has labelled the party bags. I don't know where she gets her social and organisational skills from but watching her at work makes me realise just how scary I must appear to other less socially organised members of the human race. So, for all the times I have had everything organised before you even knew it was happening, I am sorry. Next time, I will drop you a post it with a list of things to do.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

I am an artist. I have had my first taste of Photoshop and it is thrilling. I have taken some awful photos and made them into works of art. I have also had too much caffeine the last couple of days, as I normally don't have any and I have been on normal tea. So you might find my art an acquired taste. In due course I will publish some of my work here, but not until I have 'by royal appointment' stamped on the edge of each piece.

Today, I have been to Bitterne TWICE. First, for a swim and a quick retail therapy with Lorna, and then back for lunch with Jackie. I don't think I have done 2 trips to Bitterne in one day since we were moving house (that was to see the estate agents). The swimming was busy, it is ladies hour and just after hydrofit, so the pool is full of ladies for whom that is their only exercise. It means the average speed is negative, as you have to do so much tacking you end up going backwards. I have come up with a great theory to maximise the use of the pool, but when I ran it past the manager he was not convinced. See what you think:

Instead of lanes, you have levels. You provide the strong swimmers with diving equipment and they go down to the bottom and do lengths there. Medium swimmers have snorkels and hover just below the surface, whilst the slow lane is on the top. It all works really well, except that the pool is not an equal depth throughout, so you would have a potential jam at the shallow end, where all three levels join together. If you did it in the diving pool at the Quays it would work perfectly.

I also have another excellent storage idea that has not caught on. You know you have space in your lounge that is not used much - like in the middle near the ceiling? Well, you have 'pull up' cupboards into the room above, giving you more storage solutions, and utilising wasted space. If you needed all your room height in your lounge you could pull up all the cupboards (there would need to be a 'lock in open' option to avoid head injuries. This would not work if you needed floor space upstairs at the same time, but the only time I can see that happening is if we have tall people round downstairs and I am playing on the dance mat upstairs. That has not happened yet.

It would not work in a bungalow, and you would need to be on good terms with your neighbours to get it functioning in a flat.

I bought 2 pairs of trousers in charity shop in Bitterne today, the lady pressed the buzzer for help with the till before she made any fatal errors. Like pressing the 'exterminate' button instead of 'Enter'. Easy mistake if you do not have your reading glasses on.